The notification by the FDA that it has no objection to the lowering of the caloric value of gum arabic in the US has met with a mixed response from the food industry over its significance.
Gum arabic is widely used by the food and beverage industry to thicken, emulsify and stabilize products such as candy, ice cream and sweet syrups as well as beverages. It is also a fiber.
Colloides Naturels International (CNI) said this week that it had received a no-objection letter from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to its request for the caloric value to be changed from four to 1.7 calories per gram.
Commenting on the significance of the decision, a spokesperson for TIC Gums, which, like CNI, is considered a major supplier of gum arabic, told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “The benefit to manufacturers, and consumers alike, is on the nutritional label especially when gum arabic is used at high levels.
“Decreasing the caloric value allows gum arabic to be more viable as a soluble dietary fiber source.
Gum Arabic offers 85 percent fiber on a dry weight basis without increasing the viscosity of the final product. Now when used as a syrup to reduce sugar the finished good will have less than half the calories.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for National Starch told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “In the beverage sector where we offer alternatives to gum arabic, the required use levels of all ingredients is sufficiently low so that caloric content is insignificant.
“In chewing sugarfree/non cariogenic gum applications where high levels of gum arabic spray dried flavors are used (3-5 percent) this ruling may be advantageous.”
Gum arabic market
The world market for gum arabic increased 9.1 percent from 165m in 2004 to $210m in 2007.
However, the supply of gum arabic, also known as acacia gum because it comes from Acacia trees in the gum belt of Africa, is variable due to political and climatic factors in primary producing countries like Sudan and Nigeria. This has led to spikes in the price of the ingredient.
Attempts have been made to find an alternative and National starch announced earlier this year the introduction of an organic beverage ingredient into the US and Canadian market which it hoped would rival gum arabic.
The Q-Naturale emulsifier is for use in sparkling and new-age beverages such as herb-based drinks, iced tea and coffee, as well as fortified waters and juices.
National Starch said the emulsifier has the potential to “free markets from price and supply-chain pressures related to gum arabic”.
CNI, which is based in France, said it made the request to the FDA some years ago and had received a letter of no objection on October 17th this year.
It claimed that in the US the calorie count for gum arabic was too high, which was considered “a major drawback during the formulation and developments of new products”.